Does protein build muscle? The answer to this question is a resounding yes. Muscle tissue consists of a repeating structure of two protein filaments: myosin and actin. Myosin and actin filaments interact with each other to initiate muscle contractions, and over time the mechanical stress caused by constant movement will damage these protein filaments.
As a result, your muscles need a daily supply of protein to recover and remain functional. Mechanical stress from weight training is strained enough to make your muscles bigger and stronger, which is why bodybuilders tend to train with extremely heavy weights. This is also the reason why they can use supplements like the best protein powder and on best protein bars – so they ensure their bodies contain enough protein building blocks to maintain their sculpted physiques.
But it may take more than just drinking protein shakes to get the muscle you want. Many different factors affect the strength and size of your muscle fibers, including the type and amount of protein you consume. So if you want to know how protein builds muscle, read on. Here we’ll discuss the science behind effective bodybuilding and help answer all of your protein questions.
How does protein build muscle?
The process of constantly building and breaking down muscle fibers is called muscle protein turnover. If your body is in what is called an anabolic state, your body will build more muscle than it will break down. If you are in what is called a catabolic state, you will lose muscle mass. Muscle protein renewal is a relatively slow metabolic process and takes some time before results become noticeable. As such, the goal of building muscle is to achieve a continuous anabolic state long enough to achieve the desired effect.
According to Limits in nutrition (opens in new tab), two conditions must be met for your body to enter an anabolic state: your muscle fibers must be damaged and your protein intake must be sufficient to build new tissue. Resistance training is one of the most effective ways to unlock this condition.
How much muscle you gain by lifting weights will depend on several different factors, including the frequency and intensity of your training sessions. To maximize muscle growth, sports scientists recommend exercising at least twice a week and using weights at 70–90% of one-rep max. A one-rep max is the heaviest load you can lift, push, or pull at one time.
Older people may struggle to build muscle and may lose muscle mass faster than younger people. According to an article published in Journal of Applied Physiology (opens in new tab)probably caused by a blunted response to protein intake. Lots of research (opens in new tab) have shown that prolonged sepsis and inflammation can also reduce muscle protein turnover, as can drinking too much alcohol or not getting enough sleep.
How much protein do you need to build muscle?
How much protein you need to build muscle depends mostly on your body weight and activity levels. Since body weight is usually the most important factor, recommendations are usually given in grams of protein per kilogram or kilogram of body weight.
However, scientists disagree on how much protein is enough. For athletes, American College of Sports Medicine (opens in new tab) advises eating 1.2-1.4g of protein per kilogram of body weight to maintain muscle mass and recover from exercise. Recommendations from International Society of Sports Nutrition (opens in new tab) are higher – up to 2g grams of protein per kilogram. And according to a meta-analysis published in British Journal of Sports Medicine (opens in new tab)eating more than 1.6 g protein/kg will not provide additional benefits.
It’s worth noting that when it comes to eating protein to build muscle, quality can be just as important as quantity. Protein molecules are made up of 20 different amino acids, nine of which are essential, meaning our bodies cannot make them. In order for new muscle fibers to grow, all of these amino acids must be present in adequate amounts.
Animal-based foods are considered complete sources of protein because they contain enough of all amino acids, while plant-based sources may not. But you don’t have to eat meat to get protein. If carefully planned, vegan and vegetarian diets can produce the same results, according to nutrients (opens in new tab) diary. It has also been suggested that the branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) leucine, valine, and isoleucine may be more effective at building muscle than the others.
Am I getting enough protein?
Kwashiorkor is a severe form of protein deficiency that affects millions of people worldwide, mostly in Central Africa and South Asia. In Western nations, some institutionalized elderly, hospitalized patients, and people on restrictive diets are also at risk of developing this condition.
The main sign of kwashiorkor is edema (swelling under the skin) caused by too much fluid in the body’s tissues. Other symptoms include loss of muscle mass, enlarged abdomen, fatty liver and stunted growth. Kwashiorkor is usually the result of famine and humanitarian disasters and is unlikely to affect you. However, it is relatively easy to develop a marginal protein deficiency, especially if you are on a restrictive diet or suffer from medical conditions.
So how do you know you’re not getting enough protein? Problems building muscle, unexplained muscle wasting, and recurrent bone fractures are telltale signs of marginal protein deficiency. Other common symptoms include thinning hair, hair loss, brittle nails and skin problems.
Why is protein important?
Protein plays multiple roles in the body. It is undoubtedly the basic building block – every cell contains some form of this vital macronutrient. It is a major component of muscle and bone tissue, cartilage, red blood cells and skin. Protein is also needed for the production of enzymes that help digest food and absorb nutrients. Without this important macronutrient, you may experience problems with immunity, hormonal balance and wound healing.
Protein can also be used as a source of energy. It can happen when you are on low carb diet or if you ate more protein than your body needs. Just like carbohydrates, one gram of this nutrient provides four calories. What else, numerous studies (opens in new tab) have shown that increasing protein intake can help curb appetite by altering the levels of important hormones.